Toronto’s favourite song­writer pens fairy tale

Ron Sex­smith re­leases Deer Life this month

North York Post - - Arts - by Ron John­son Ron Sex­smith

You’re a song­writer. Why write a book?

To be hon­est, the last thing I ever wanted to do was write a book. But when the idea pre­sented it­self to me, I re­ally didn’t know what to do with it. At first, I thought it was a mu­si­cal, so I started telling my ac­tor friends about it. A few years af­ter think­ing about it as it de­vel­oped in my mind, out of the blue, I got an email from a fel­low at Pen­guin book pub­lish­ing who had heard a ru­mour that I had this story, and it was he who en­cour­aged me to write it.

What did you find chal­leng­ing about the writ­ing a book?

Song­writ­ing I un­der­stand, be­cause I’ve been there. It was hard in the be­gin­ning, but you learn to trou­bleshoot, and with songs you have the lux­ury of melody and rep­e­ti­tion. With the book, I had so many ques­tions about di­a­logue and how to move the story for­ward. But I liked it. I was so im­mersed, I re­ally felt like I was in the town and could see the char­ac­ters.

Whom did you look to for in­spi­ra­tion in your nov­el­is­tic pur­suits?

My favourite writer has al­ways been Dick­ens. I’ve al­ways liked the tone of his books, the hu­mour in his books. So I was ap­proach­ing it obviously from a great dis­tance, but I liked how his char­ac­ters had these names that de­scribed their per­son­al­i­ties or out­ward ap­pear­ance. I also like books that are a bit fan­tas­ti­cal.

And, like any good fairy tale, there are morals at work. What are you hop­ing peo­ple take from it?

No idea. The book is a lot more per­sonal to me. I don’t know what I should ex­pect from the read­ers, but I think it’s a nice story, and I think, like a lot of fairy tales, it’s a sort of good ver­sus evil tale with a love story.

As any­one who fol­lows you on Twit­ter knows, you love a good pun, and the book is no dif­fer­ent. To what do you at­tribute this love of word­play?

I’m a big fan of the hu­mour of Grou­cho Marx, Jack Benny, dad hu­mour. I guess be­cause I’m a dad and 53. I just didn’t know what else to do with Twit­ter. It seemed like this enor­mous waste of time. So I started do­ing these lit­tle quips, and I started grow­ing my fol­low­ing. And there is this big mis­con­cep­tion that I am this melan­choly per­son, but it was never very ac­cu­rate, so this is also a way to cor­rect that I sup­pose.

Are you be hit­ting the book fes­ti­val cir­cuit?

They’ve got me do­ing Word on the Street, one in Cal­gary and also in Oc­to­ber the Strat­ford Writ­ers’ fest.… Read­ings scare me a bit. There’s a rea­son I sing. I haven’t got great or­a­to­rial skills, you know.

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